The weekend killing of a Watts-area gang leader triggered a rash of retaliation shootings that has left at least two more young men dead and others wounded, police said Tuesday.
Brandon "B.L." Bullard, 25, whom police identified as a key member of the Grape Street Crips, was shot in the face at a party in a rented hall on Florence Avenue in South-Central Los Angeles about 1 a.m. Sunday and later died. (The coroner spelled Bullard's first name Branden.)
At least seven other people were wounded when more than one gunman sprayed the crowd at the party, which was also attended by members of the East Coast Crips, police said.
Since then, an innocent bystander has been killed in an area controlled by the East Coast Crips. Another man died Sunday outside the Jordan Downs housing project, a Grape Street stronghold, and six other men were injured in what police believe were related street shootings, all before Tuesday.
"Two gangs are going at each other," Chief William J. Bratton told the Police Commission on Tuesday.
High numbers of shootings are not unusual in that section of South L.A., and the initial killing may have stemmed not from gang issues, but from a personal dispute between women associated with the gang members, police said.
But authorities fear that the violence, coming after a year in which homicides dropped by half in the LAPD's Southeast Division, which includes the area of the retaliatory shootings, might signal a return to cycles of vengeance of the past.
After Bullard, who had the authority to settle gang disputes, was wounded in a Christmas 2005 shooting, two dozen other men were shot, Cmdr. Pat Gannon said.
That spiral of violence helped jump-start the Watts Gang Task Force and a long period of peace between the gangs, authorities said.
"Three to five years ago this probably wouldn't have been a story," Councilwoman Janice Hahn said. "But this violence is a bigger deal now because we've spent so much time with the Watts Gang Task Force and intervention workers, and we've managed to stem the violence and the retaliation."
Hahn, whose district includes Watts, said people need to understand that "it takes everyone to keep the peace, including the gang members."
Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said the city has moved extra officers from the downtown Metro squad, and gang officers, into the neighborhood. Hahn said every anti-gang group funded by the city has also mobilized in the neighborhood.
On Tuesday afternoon at Jordan Downs, a staff employee said residents were aware of the shootings but she doubted they wanted to discuss them. Just outside the front door of one unit, a group of boys nodded when asked if they knew about the killings, but would not comment.
The seven people wounded at the party included two women. Gannon said at least one of the injured may be paralyzed for life. "There were multiple shooters. They shot into a place packed with people," he said.
The retaliatory shootings started shortly after sunrise Sunday, with three gun attacks in areas frequented by the East Coast Crips and another at Nickerson Gardens, home to the Bounty Hunters, also a Grape Street rival gang, Gannon said. No one was killed.
About 1 p.m. a man got out of his car and shot and killed Maurio Proctor, 22, at 101st and Grape streets in front of Jordan Downs, Det. Sal LaBarbera said. Proctor's friend was wounded in the hand. Police believe the shooter was acting on the East Coast Crips' behalf.
The 13th nonfatal shooting took place late Sunday or early Monday at Nickerson Gardens.
At 8:45 a.m. Monday , LaBarbera said, Van Knott, 19, was standing astride his bicycle in the 700 block of East 97th Street talking to a friend when a gunman in a Dodge Charger pulled up and shot at them. Knott died of his wounds at a hospital. LaBarbera said Knott was not a gang member.